I thought about saving it for the morning, but … I just had to share.

“Strong” in this case means 15 percent, although even that wouldn’t be assured of third given McCain’s late movement. It’s all just speculation and Fred’s had trouble with Politico before, but it’s in line with what I and pretty much everyone else are thinking. With no money and two social cons more popular than he is to contend with, what’s the point of sticking around until South Carolina?

“Without a solid third-place finish, there’s no point in going on,” a Thompson adviser said Wednesday. “It was an honorable race, and he turned out to be a good candidate. The moment had just passed.”

A Thompson campaign source said there is “a strong likelihood” that if Thompson comes in a distant third in Iowa, with less than 15 percent of the vote, he would drop out soon—most likely before this weekend’s New Hampshire presidential debates.

The Thompson sources said they were describing a consensus expectation that is now widespread among his political circle, not announcing a decision that the candidate himself has definitively reached…

Friends and advisers emphasized that no deal has been cut to have Thompson endorse McCain. But they note that there would be a logic to doing so soon, in order to help a friend and colleague at a moment when he needs it most. In turn, Thompson might be named attorney general in a McCain administration

[A]dvisers to Thompson described his campaign as “broke” and said that without a shot of momentum from Iowa, continuing the campaign would be pointless and impractical.

He’d make a good VP for McCain, actually, insofar as he’d give him instant credibility on immigration and a little southern mojo for social cons who might otherwise be iffy. I’m not sure if Mac would want a guy on the ticket, though, who flamed out early and wouldn’t be a big asset on the stump. Your exit question: Would putting Fred on the bottom of the ticket warrant a SECOND LOOK AT McCAIN!, or is there simply nothing that can scrub the stain of amnesty from his soul?

Update: Blame the media!

Update: Got the video of Fred calling this story “made up out of whole cloth” right here.